For those of you who follow my blogs, you’re familiar with a few of my last articles outlining some principles of kung fu. For those of you who are new to my website, allow me to share links to the articles I’m talking about (in the order they were released):
- As we were created, so we be
- Maturing in kung fu: the proprioception principle (part 1)
- Maturing in kung fu: the proprioception principle (part 2)
- Maturing in kung-fu: the flow state
There were other articles written to help readers identify when change (or adaptation) is necessary in themselves, like A Failure to Adapt Part 2. All of these have lead to some very interesting comments and questions. A few of these questions came from people looking to find ways to improve, themselves, how they learn. Here are a couple of examples:
- How do I know if I’m performing my forms correctly?
- I noticed that, the other day, I started to be manipulated easily while doing chi sau. My sifu says I am doing the technique in the forms correctly, so what can I do to do chi sau better?
First, you should assure yourself you’re getting good instruction. One way to do that is to keep a journal. Use this journal to keep records while in class and away from class. While away from class, make sure to document your questions – leaving room for answers in the future – so you don’t forget those questions before you get back to your teacher (i.e., sifu). This will allow your teacher the opportunity to know where you are and from where they can best direct you. If they are unwilling to do this, find out why. If there’s a legitimate reason for a delayed answer, fine; but if there is not, you may need to find another teacher.
To the extent, though, that you are responsible for your maturation, you will want to learn the metacognition principle. So, that’s going to be the focus of this article.
Metacognitive practices increase students’ abilities to transfer or adapt their learning to new contexts and tasks. They do this by gaining a level of awareness above the subject matter: they also think about the tasks and contexts of different learning situations and themselves as learners in these different contexts. As Paul Pintrich puts it, in his book The Role of Metacognitive Knowledge in Learning, Teaching, and Assessing:
Students who know about the different kinds of strategies for learning, thinking, and problem solving will be more likely to use them. . . .
Metacognitive practices help students become aware of their strengths and weaknesses as learners, test-takers, group members, . . . you name it. As John Bransford, Ann Brown and Rodney Cocking put it, in their book How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Students who know their strengths and weakness in these areas will be more likely to “actively monitor their learning strategies and resources and assess their readiness for particular tasks and performances.”
Consider the potential of your martial arts training. If it is poor, what could happen if you and/or your family were attacked? If it is quality, what could happen if you and/or your family were attacked? What are the differences?
While good instruction is a must, proper self-application is a must. I recall having a group of guys far enough along in their Siu Nim Tao (the first empty-hand form of Wing Chun kung fu) that they were zipping right through it. While I saw the flaws, they did not. Some, in fact, couldn’t see them when I pointed them out. So, I stood in front of class and informed them that they had to follow along with me, doing Siu Nim Tao exactly as I did it and at the pace I did it. Confidently, the group stood in front of me, ready to show me that they could do this easily. Then, we began to move. Slowly. Very slowly. So slowly, in fact, it took us forty-five minutes to do the form once.
Once we finished that form students began to slowly move their shaking legs and aching bodies to some stretching position, laughing and observing (1) things that they needed to work on and (2) things that they had trouble doing correctly. They were ready to receive constructive (corrective) criticisms from me, and they did. After that night not one of those students required that type of lesson to receive correction again. They had learned enough to sense themselves and the principles they were exercising in order to ask questions, receive correction and apply themselves to that corrective action.
Metacognition has been linked to improved learning outcomes, and is also a significant factor in whether students can transfer their learning to new scenarios. Think about that for a moment, and reconsider the questions I asked you earlier: If your training is poor, what could happen if you and/or your family were attacked? If it is quality, what could happen if you and/or your family were attacked? What are the differences?
There is no one way to fight; in other words, violence can be expressed many different ways. If all we do is train for one means of (violent) expression, we will lack the ability to deal with that violence (i.e., express our intentions with integrity during the fight). This is why kung fu is a principle-based martial art. (It is not a technique matching technique discipline.) The principles are to be absorbed, processed, and as appropriate used to communicate our intentions while avoiding the intentions of our opponents, doing so in a manner of preserved integrity.
Kung fu is meant to be expressed individually – by each practitioner – not dictated as if we had no minds of our own. In order to do that you must have good instruction and you must apply yourself properly to your training. A failure to do this will limit your potential – regardless the martial art system you’re learning.
Empower yourself to life!™
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